The weather around here has been jumping up and down by 30 degrees every other day — today I sent the kids off to school in shorts and lightweight tees. But during one of the cooler days, we were all craving some fall, so we made pumpkin cookies and talked about apple recipes. At one point in our conversation, I realized I was having a hard time describing the differences between cobblers, crisps, and crumbles.
So I thought it would be fun to turn to a baker I admire — Liz Berget of Carpé Season — and see if she would tell us a little about the differences between the three, plus share her favorite apple recipe. Happily, she said, “Yes!”
I know you’ll LOVE Liz’s recipe, and in case you’re like me and need some clarification, I think you’ll enjoy the refresher on your favorite fruit-baked desserts just as much. : )
Here’s what Liz has to say:
It’s that time of year again, when I take my kids to the apple orchard on random weekdays, just so I can enjoy hot apple cider donuts with my coffee and pick my kids’ combined weight in apples on a weekly basis. We are an apple family. Come September, I basically only eat apples with sharp cheddar for lunch; my kids would bathe in applesauce if I let them, and my husband would take an apple dessert over any other dessert, anytime.
So, we’ve experimented with a lot of apple desserts over the years. And there are endless variations of cobblers, crumbles, and crisps out there. While all three of these are essentially fresh fruit baked under some kind of topping that includes butter, there are some subtle differences.
A cobbler is the most distinctive. In this dessert, small, individual biscuits are dropped over the fruit. When baked, the biscuits pop up, creating a bumpy appearance, like a cobbled road. Bonus Tip: you can replace the biscuit batter with cake batter or cookie dough! I love this berry peach brown sugar cobbler, and while you’re at it, make a savory one for dinner like this tomato cobbler with blue cheese biscuits.
Crumbles and Crisps are a little harder to define. Both call for streusel-like toppings over your fresh fruit. While various geographical regions will debate this on the Internet for eternity, the general consensus seems to be that a crisp topping includes oats and is more like granola while a crumble topping does not have oats and is made up of a more crumbly mixture of flour, butter, and sugar. This blueberry crisp is one of my favorites, full of oats and free of any refined sugar, definitely making it eligible for second breakfast. And this peach and pecan sandy crumble may be one of the best things I have ever made.
As for this recipe, I’m calling it a cobbler. The topping has all of the elements of a biscuit — or a sugar cookie! — but the difference is that the topping isn’t formed into individual biscuits before baking. Really, it’s a Crumb-bler: a mix between a crumble and cobbler that gives you sweet cinnamon-sugar apples topped with what tastes like a sugar-cookie pie crust that has the most incredible crunch to it as you break through to the fruit below. It’s my go-to apple dessert in fall, and I hope you like it too!
Easy Apple Cobbler
(yields one 8×8” or 2.5-quart dish)
app. 1.5 pounds apples*, peeled, cored, and thinly sliced
¼ cup + ⅛ cup sugar
½ tablespoon cinnamon
¾ cup flour
¾ cup sugar
heaping ⅛ teaspoon salt
¾ teaspoon baking powder
¾ of one egg, lightly beaten**
3 tablespoons butter, melted
extra cinnamon for sprinkling
*I tried baking with honeycrisp apples a few years ago and can’t go back. Baking with honeycrisps is luxurious, like drinking mimosas on a random Tuesday morning, but their sweet and tangy balance really comes through, even when baked. I highly recommend using them!
**Don’t stress over getting exactly ¾ of an egg. Crack the egg into a small bowl and take out a few spoonfuls.
Preheat oven to 350*. Spray your pan with cooking spray.
Place prepared apple slices in greased pan.
Stir the ¼ + ⅛ cup sugar and 1/2 tablespoon cinnamon together, then sprinkle over the sliced apples. Do not mix in.
In a medium bowl, whisk the flour, sugar, salt, and baking powder together. Once combined, add the lightly beaten egg, stirring it in as best you can. It won’t mix together thoroughly, and that’s okay. I use my fingers to try to work the egg into the dry ingredients.
Assemble & Bake:
Sprinkle flour mixture over the cinnamon/sugared apples.
Pour melted butter over the topping.
Then sprinkle with extra cinnamon.
Bake for about 45 minutes or until filling is bubbling and topping is nicely browned.
Store covered on countertop for 24 hours; beyond that it should be stored in the fridge.
Serve with whipped cream or ice cream if desired.
Thank you, Liz! I know what I’ll be baking as soon as the temperature drops again. Crossing my fingers it’s tonight!
Now it’s your turn, lovely Design Mom Readers. When you think of your favorite apple recipe, is it a crisp, a crumble, or a cobbler? Or maybe you go for apple pie instead! And do you have anything to add to Liz’s definitions? Chime in!